Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published January 8th 2016
A Touching Story About the First Gender Transition Surgery
On the 1st January 2015, British actor, Eddie Redmayne became a sensation as he hit the big screen in the film The Theory of Everything. His leading role as physicist, Stephen Hawking, earned Redmayne both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. The film itself won a BAFTA.
Exactly one year later on the 1st January 2016, audiences were once again in awe when they saw Redmayne star in The Danish Girl. Yet again he has taken on a biographical story with a strongly character driven narrative. Set in 1926, Redmayne plays a landscape artist called Einar Wegener. He is married to Gerda, who is a portrait artist. One day Gerda needs Einar to stand in for her female model, by posing in a pair of stockings. The stockings awaken something - or rather someone - in Einar who he has kept buried for a long time. Her name is Lili.
Lili Elbe was the first person in history to go through sex reassignment surgery, and using the diaries that she wrote, director, Tom Hooper, helped reveal her life to the world. Despite veering away from the truth on occasion - its truncated ending in particular - the story is told with a beautiful raw energy. Borderline intrusive camera work combined with terrific acting and underlying score make each scene visceral and immersive.
Although Stephen Hawking and Lili Elbe are very different people, they share similar challenges: both are battling against their own bodies, both are struggling to express themselves, and both are fighting or longing for their own independence. For Redmayne, these are both intense physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging roles, which he has managed to explore in the most captivating of ways.
Eddie Redmayne may star as the main protagonist of the story, but Lili is not the only Danish girl in the film. Alicia Vikander excels in the part of Gerda, whose character could so easily have been overplayed. Vikander portray's Gerda's turmoil with just the right balance of anguish, ferocity, and tenderness. She shows what true love is when she helps Einar turn into Lili, knowing that at the same time, she is essentially making herself a widow.
Being transgender is hard enough to deal with in the twenty-first century, but during the 1920s when there was so little tolerance or understanding must have been a truly terrifying. The Danish Girl demonstrates that to great effect, and I can predict another set of BAFTAs are one the way.